Establishing a national biodiversity information facility in Chile

Experiences of setting up and running a node in Latin America

Zyzzyx chilensis observed in Santiago, Chile by orlandomontes. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0). GBIF Chile logo used with permission.

Assessing the needs of the national community for biodiversity information management was a primary step in preparations by the environmental authority for setting up the node. This revealed an urgent need for a national policy on management and accessibility of information from publicly funded databases. The emerging node was therefore charged with facilitating the publication of data online for discovery and use by specialists, professionals and students, to ensure the availability of high quality data necessary for evidence-based research and policy making.

Following initial assessments, Chile appointed a node manager with time and resources dedicated to implementing and managing the national biodiversity information facility. This process involved a series of bilateral meetings with key actors, including collection curators and other data management stakeholders.

It was crucial to ensure from the beginning of the process not only the support of the institution hosting the node, but also of potential publishing partners,. This initial support leveraged by early achievements of the node later led to official institutional recognition and funding. The allocation of additional funding from the Capacity Enhancement Support Programme in 2017 further strengthened the activities of the node and consolidated a community of publishers.

A key indicator of success for the national node in 2019 is Chile's return to voting participant status in GBIF. The node also aims to secure an additional allocation of funding from the Ministry of the Environment for studies, consultancies, seminars and training related to data management and its publication to GBIF.

Recommendations for emerging nodes

Leisy Amaya Montano, Chilean node manager, provides advice for emerging nodes on establishing national collaborations:

“We recommend mapping and working with key actors in the national context who are committed to information management and data publication—ideally from multiple contexts including academic collections, museums, herbaria, ministries, and, decision-makers in general; to pursue the clear benefits of networking, community building, and organizing activities at national and international levels.”

Marianne Katunaric from the Global Environment Facility-funded project "Biological Mountain Corridors", shares the view of a data publisher:

"Our team values the advances made by GBIF Chile in offering a globally recognized facility to publish data on biodiversity observations. Our project is working towards establishing the necessary infrastructure to monitore and inform on biodiversity and its ecosystem services in the Santiago Metropolitan Region of Chile. The Chilean node receives our full support for offering a robust platform to publish our monitoring efforts."

Given the scarcity of funding, it is recommended to work with interns who are interested in focusing their careers in botany, taxonomy, or collections, and who are trained by the key actors already identified. In this way, a community is formed and new talents are groomed.

"Working with GBIF Chile helped me understand the importance of providing visibility to existing biological collections in the country. This work isn't trivial because it doesn't only involve sharing data through GBIF, but also requires a lot of work curating the databases and ensuring the quality and usability of data,"

Says Victoria Alejandra Arevalo Rocha, describing her experiences with interning with the node in 2018 and continues:

"My internship allows me to help and share knowledge with those institutions wanting to share their data through the node. The awareness work done by GBIF Chile is remarkable, organizing workshops with focus on the importance of biological collections, data management policies, access to information on biodiversity and knowledge of data curation tools to aid publishing through GBIF."

Antonia Serey, forestry engineering student at Universidad de Chile and also former GBIF Chile intern adds:

"My main motivation was the vast amounts of information about our national biological diversity in heritage centers that is not being used because of the difficulties accessing it—even when it is necessary for decision-making and sustainable development. Platforms such as GBIF provide a means for making sharing of information easier. Working with the node was an enriching experience with opportunities to learn how to manage, standardize and share diversity databases and at the same time transfer this knowledge to other people."

The node manager concludes that a strong network is crucial to success:

"We also strongly advise new nodes to generate collaborative networks with other nodes in the region and the GBIF network worldwide. The successful establishment of Chilean node would not have been possible without the support and trust of other nodes in the international community."

More information and contact details

List of training and dissemination activities (details in Spanish):

For more information on activities and the experience of this emerging node, please visit the node website or contact the node team directly.